(non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Verde

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(non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Verde

Postby Admin » Thu Sep 07, 2017 11:15 pm

Mrs. Admin, the dogs and I just returned tonight from a week dispersed camping and exploring the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with an extra stop at Mesa Verde National Park. They haven't nicknamed the San Juans the "American Alps" without reason, and while I'm not a big National Park guy as I prefer wilderness over the often sanitized National Park experience, Mesa Verde gives you a once in a lifetime opportunity to view ruins of Anasazi cliff dwellings up close and personal.

We left after work on Friday, Sept. 1, got caught in horrific rush hour traffic along the Wasatch Front, and lost a lot of time as a result. It was thus that we didn't pull into our campsite along Klondike Bluffs Road just north of Moab, Utah until 10 p.m. It was just a transit stop, but Klondike Bluffs suited our needs perfectly -- it was just off US-191, it was easy to locate a spot in the dark, and we didn't see anyone except for the patrons of Skydive Moab dropping into the nearby airport.

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Our camp on Klondike Bluffs Road.

We broke camp early the next morning and headed for Telluride.

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Dropping into the Paradox Valley en route to Telluride.

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Telluride, Colorado

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Starting up Last Dollar Road at Telluride, long before it turns to dirt.

I had intended to camp on Last Dollar Road, but the road looked tight past the overlook at which several others were already camped. I chatted with one of the campers and he convinced me to not proceed further with my trailer in tow, so we headed south to my "Plan B" -- Trout Lake.

The North Trout Lake Road, south of Ophir, becomes Forest Service land legal for dispersed camping just beyond the east end of the lake. About a half mile east of the lake the road makes a sharp bend across the creek next to the historic Trout Lake Trestle from the days when this road was a railroad bed, and heads southwest to Lizard Head Pass. Right next to the trestle we found what would be our own little nirvana for the next two days beneath the stunningly beautiful Mount San Miguel.

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Camped at the end of the Trout Lake Trestle

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The evening sun lights up Mt. San Miguel, as seen from my camp patio.

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Trout Lake

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Our camp on North Trout Lake Road.

The following morning Mrs. Admin, the dogs and I drove to Mountain Village and loaded the free gondola that connects Mountain Village with Telluride, where we spent the afternoon browsing the streets, letting the dogs swim in the San Miguel River, and grabbing an excellent pizza. The town was absolutely bustling thanks to the holiday weekend and the Telluride Film Festival.

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The dogs were at first a bit freaked loading a moving gondola cabin, but they were pros by the end of the day.

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Downtown Telluride

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How about this RV?

On the morning of our fourth day, Labor Day Monday, we crossed over to US-550 at Ridgeway, Colo., to take on the infamous Million Dollar Highway through Ouray to Silverton. Reading RV forum reports on this road left me with a bit of trepidation, but I can now say that if you're used to mountain driving, US-550 isn't considerably worse than any other western mountain road. You just exercise common sense, drive with attention and engine braking, and it's easily negotiated. We stopped near the top of Red Mountain Pass to take in the mine ruins and have a bite to eat from the trailer kitchen.

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Ouray, Colorado

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Mine ruins on Red Mountain Pass.

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Abandoned mine buildings on Red Mountain Pass.

At the bottom of Red Mountain Pass, at its south end three miles from Silverton we turned right onto County Road 5 and quickly arrived at the Anvil and Sultan Camping Areas established by the USFS on either side of Mineral Creek. These are free dispersed camping areas without marked sites. There was a large Class A and a pair of trailers already at Anvil, but only a single tent was pitched at Sultan and it looked to be closed up for a number of days with no one in sight. I dropped the trailer right next to the creek at Sultan. There we would be serenaded by the sound of the rushing water for two nights -- we only planned one night in Silverton, but this was just too perfect. Another Class A would arrive at Sultan about 100 feet away on our second night, as would a camper van across the creek at Anvil, but that was it.

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Our spot at Sultan Camping Area.

In between those two nights we did the tourist thing in Silverton, which is a very different town than Telluride. The latter just oozes wealth from its pores. Although Telluride's downtown core has been lovingly preserved, the tarmac at its tiny airport is dotted with numerous large private Gulfstreams and Lears, and the forested slopes around town are speckled with luxury condos that are probably occupied two weeks per year, in between colossal high-rise hotels. By contrast, Silverton's outskirts are occupied by single-wides on gravel lots. Nevertheless, Silverton's entire downtown core is a designated National Historic District that has received no less love in its restoration than has Telluride.

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Downtown Silverton

As you might guess from its name, Silverton owes its existence to a mining heyday that once brought the town fame and glory. Fun fact: Silverton was the second city in the U.S. to get 110-volt A/C service. Instead of luxury hotels and condos, the mountains surrounding Silverton are absolutely littered with mining ruins everywhere you look. It's a mining history buff's Mecca.

As she's very claustrophobic, Mrs. Admin stayed at the RV while I drove 25 minutes to be a tourist at the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour. Arriving at around 10:30 a.m., I had to wait for the 11 a.m. tour. About 15 people disembarked the mine train at the end of their 10 a.m. tour, but when the clock struck 11 I was the only customer standing there. I got my own private tour!

Sure, it's been adapted for tourists and is sort of like a mining museum set up one-third of a mile into a mountain, but it was a real, working mine at one time and my guide was a retired miner, so it's the real deal. It's worthy of $18.95 and an hour of your time in Silverton.

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The entrance to the Old Hundred Mine.

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While lights have been added to the tour area for tourist comfort, the 1/3-mile mine train to access the tour area is typically pitch black.

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The contraption that looks like an elevator in the lower tunnel accesses another draft 700 feet higher in the mountain. The upper tunnel is the alternative escape route.

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If you think your RV's black tank is nasty, check out the miners' honey wagon!

For the afternoon I went back to retrieve Mrs. Admin and we took a 4x4 adventure to the ghost town of Animas Forks, el. 11,200'. Virtually any high-clearance 4x4 can get there without difficulty.

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Climbing past other mine ruins en route to Animas Forks.

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Animas Forks

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Animas Forks

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Animas Forks

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Animas Forks

On our way back to the trailer, the skier in me had to detour to see Silverton Mountain while I was in the neighborhood.

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Move over Vail, that's the entire "base village" at Silverton Mountain.

After one more night beside the bubbling Mineral Creek, we bid farewell to Silverton on Wednesday morning and headed south towards Durango.

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So long, Silverton. We'll meet again.

My plan had been to find a dispersed camping spot along Hermosa Park Road near Durango Mountain Resort, and although that plan was already cut in half by spending an extra night in Silverton, we opted to further revise the Hermosa Park plan from two nights all the way down to zero and instead continue on to Mesa Verde National Park where we made camp on a little slice of BLM land less than two miles from the park entrance. Now I'm not one to second guess someone else's choices, but for the life of me I can't understand why people would insist upon paying for a spot in the crowded National Park campground (without even hookups at most sites) when this was far prettier, absolutely free, I couldn't see or hear any neighbors, and I had to comply with virtually no rules.

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Mrs. Admin seems happy with our Mesa Verde campsite choice.

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Looking toward Mesa Verde from camp.

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OK, I couldn't have both level and a fully extended awning, but I'll still take it.

After dropping the trailer at camp we took a driving tour of Mesa Verde together. Mrs. Admin didn't sleep well that night, so I went back alone in the morning for the walking (and climbing) tour of the Balcony House ruins. Really, it's a shame to visit this park and not get tickets for one of the tours; otherwise, you're just looking at any of the numerous Anasazi cliff dwellings from a distance.

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Mesa Verde National Park

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Looking north from Mesa Verde.

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To get to Balcony House you first downclimb some metal stairs from the mesa top, then you ascend this 30-foot ladder.

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Balcony House

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Balcony House

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Leaving Balcony House is no less intimidating.

We broke camp at around noon after the tour, and headed back across the state line into Utah. We had planned to camp one more night about halfway between Monticello and Moab to break up the return drive, but with hot temperatures and a blazing sun we scratched those plans and made a run for Salt Lake, arriving home a day ahead of schedule. No matter, we had a wonderful week camping our way around beautiful southwestern Colorado!
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Sep 08, 2017 9:29 am

admin wrote:Reading RV forum reports on this road left me with a bit of trepidation, but I can now say that if you're used to mountain driving, US-550 isn't considerably worse than any other western mountain road.

It's a bit more of an adventure in the snow. The famed Riverside slide path overhead adds some extra spice.

Every once in while on ski forums someone brings up the idea of traveling around the West in an RV chasing storms for a ski season. But the reality of driving one in inclement weather usually puts an end to those dreams.

I believe that's a Tesla Model X under the Telluride Film Festival banner. Colorado remains one of the more difficult states for Tesla excursions with no superchargers planned as yet outside Interstates 25 and 70. Utah is much better with superchargers at Price, Moab and Blanding plus Page, Arizona. At least Telluride has 4 upscale hotels with 240V overnight chargers.

admin wrote:On our way back to the trailer, the skier in me had to detour to see Silverton Mountain while I was in the neighborhood.
I'm a bit surprised admin hasn't skied there yet considering my visit there was during the season before he moved to Utah. Silverton is in some respects his kind of place. He may have to work harder than at Alta, though.

admin wrote:for the life of me I can't understand why people would insist upon paying for a spot in the crowded National Park campground (without even hookups at most sites) when this was far prettier, absolutely free, I couldn't see or hear any neighbors, and I had to comply with virtually no rules.

Reason #1 for newbies is that they want the hookups. Becky was fairly insistent upon that during our 2-week motorhome trip in 1995. And of course it depends upon which National Park. In the case of Yellowstone, the RV park at the lake is a fairly central location within a very large park. Nonetheless I agree with admin that we should have dry camped a couple of those nights rather than going back to the lake at the end of every day.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Admin » Fri Sep 08, 2017 9:46 am

Tony Crocker wrote:
admin wrote:Reading RV forum reports on this road left me with a bit of trepidation, but I can now say that if you're used to mountain driving, US-550 isn't considerably worse than any other western mountain road.

It's a bit more of an adventure in the snow.


I am certain that it is.

Tony Crocker wrote:Every once in while on ski forums someone brings up the idea of traveling around the West in an RV chasing storms for a ski season. But the reality of driving one in inclement weather usually puts an end to those dreams.


We've actually daydreamed about it, but the inclement weather driving isn't the only barrier. There's also the issue of keeping your rig's plumbing system from freezing and cracking. Mine has the optional "Arctic Package" that includes extra insulation in the roof and walls, an enclosed and insulated underbelly, and tank heaters for the black and grey tanks. However, that just makes it a solid 3-season rig, not a true 4-season camper.

Tony Crocker wrote:
admin wrote:On our way back to the trailer, the skier in me had to detour to see Silverton Mountain while I was in the neighborhood.
I'm a bit surprised admin hasn't skied there yet considering my visit there was during the season before he moved to Utah. Silverton is in some respects his kind of place.


I've actually tried several times, but plans fell apart for one reason or another each time.

Tony Crocker wrote:
admin wrote:for the life of me I can't understand why people would insist upon paying for a spot in the crowded National Park campground (without even hookups at most sites) when this was far prettier, absolutely free, I couldn't see or hear any neighbors, and I had to comply with virtually no rules.

Reason #1 for newbies is that they want the hookups. Becky was fairly insistent upon that during our 2-week motorhome trip in 1995. And of course it depends upon which National Park. In the case of Yellowstone, the RV park at the lake is a fairly central location within a very large park. Nonetheless I agree with admin that we should have dry camped a couple of those nights rather than going back to the lake at the end of every day.


I just don't want to be in a park, period...whether it has hookups or not. I don't want to hear neighbors' generators or deal with neighbors' kids whining. I want to get up in the morning, throw open the camper door and let the dogs out off-leash. I don't want to have stupid campground rules to comply with.

Regarding hookups, if you browse through RV forums you realize that there's a true fear factor out there regarding camping without their umbilical cord. They're terrified of limited battery capacity. They insist upon Wifi and park cable TV. They can't fathom carrying water instead of hooking a hose to a spigot. However, with judicious water usage, my generator and/or solar panels, and even my satellite dish I can accomplish virtually everything that RV Park dwellers can while still being out in the boonies. I don't have to use all of those first-world conveniences, I just know that I can if I want to.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:15 am

admin wrote:if you browse through RV forums you realize that there's a true fear factor out there regarding camping without their umbilical cord. They're terrified of limited battery capacity.

Sort of like "range anxiety" with an electric car. And similarly with experience I'm sure you soon figure out what you can do and what you can't do. Even as a newbie and with 5 people in that RV I could see we could get by with 2 nights between hookups. It seems that admin can routinely go an entire week.
admin wrote:They insist upon Wifi and park cable TV.

Not a problem for Garry Klassen. He has a DirecTV dish for his trailer. But he's retired, often spends a month or more on an RV trip.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Admin » Fri Sep 08, 2017 10:20 am

Tony Crocker wrote:Not a problem for Garry Klassen. He has a DirecTV dish for his trailer.


Although we have DirecTV in the house we opted for Dish Network in the RV, because DirecTV's satellites require the normal manually-oriented parabolic dish to get HD channels. With Dish you can go with the smaller dome antennas that you've probably seen on RVs or semis that are motorized to automatically find and lock onto the satellites and still get HD. This is ours:

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I literally just plug mine in and wait 10 minutes. We use it primarily for news while cooking dinner in the kitchen, or while laying in bed just prior to going to sleep. As former Florida residents, we used it this trip to monitor the progress of the hurricane. As you can probably imagine, in most places we camp we don't pick up any OTA channels whatsoever, although some places have truly surprised us -- the Wedge in the San Rafael Swell, for one, where we got 20-something OTA channels.

Next year it'll be cheaper for me to pay my early termination fees with DirecTV and put Dish in my house. Once I do so, the RV will incrementally only cost me the $7 per month extra receiver fee.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Evren » Fri Sep 08, 2017 11:45 am

Must... go... soon...
I have met some cool people here in gardiner and it is so comfortable that I've been putting off the long drive to glacier. But now maybe I will change course entirely and head over to this area.
Any idea when peak color is expected this year?
Great pictures, gem of a place. The tips on camping spots will come in super handy.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Admin » Fri Sep 08, 2017 11:51 am

The aspens are just starting to change now. I'd guess that two weeks from now will be prime.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby BobMc » Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:01 pm

"Really, it's a shame to visit this park and not get tickets for one of the tours; otherwise, you're just looking at any of the numerous Anasazi cliff dwellings from a distance."

I'll refrain from saying I told ya so, ;).
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Admin » Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:11 pm

BobMc wrote:"Really, it's a shame to visit this park and not get tickets for one of the tours; otherwise, you're just looking at any of the numerous Anasazi cliff dwellings from a distance."

I'll refrain from saying I told ya so, ;).


I never doubted you for a minute.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Sep 09, 2017 11:09 am

Evren wrote:Must... go... soon...
I have met some cool people here in gardiner and it is so comfortable that I've been putting off the long drive to glacier. But now maybe I will change course entirely and head over to this area.

We were really impressed with Glacier/Waterton. Since you're in Gardiner I would go there unless there's an issue with weather or smoke.
Crypt Lake, Waterton NP: viewtopic.php?t=11023
Iceberg Lake, Glacier NP: viewtopic.php?t=11025
Swiftcurrent Pass, Glacier NP: viewtopic.php?t=11028
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:01 pm

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Our camp on Klondike Bluffs Road.

Hah, when I spent a week mountain biking at Moab 20 years ago, Klondike Bluffs was my first day. I remember pedaling up that road to the quasi intro/intermediate slickrock ride before the more well-known stuff (Amasa Back, Poison Spider, Gemini Bridges, Porcupine RIm, Monitor/Merrimac, Portal, etc.).
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Marc_C » Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:38 pm

Evren wrote:Must... go... soon...
I have met some cool people here in gardiner and it is so comfortable that I've been putting off the long drive to glacier. But now maybe I will change course entirely and head over to this area.

You might want to check:

https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5510/

https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/nature/fire-information.htm
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:30 am

If you go up there, it's probably better to continue north to Waterton. East side of Glacier is open but there's probably lots of smoke.
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby Marc_C » Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:30 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:If you go up there, it's probably better to continue north to Waterton. East side of Glacier is open but there's probably lots of smoke.


http://flatheadbeacon.com/2017/09/08/evacuation-order-issued-waterton-lakes-national-park/

Updated: Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m.

Parks Canada has issued an immediate evacuation order for Waterton Lakes National Park, including Waterton Park townsite, and all front-country and back-country trails, facilities, and areas as a result of significant public safety risk from the Kenow Fire, which is burning primarily in nearby British Columbia.

The park, located across the border from Glacier National Park, is closed to all incoming traffic except emergency vehicles.


Logan Pass webcam looking east, 11 SEP 2017
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Re: (non-skiing) TR: Camping Telluride, Silverton & Mesa Ver

Postby EMSC » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:38 pm

Good stuff. Been there (a couple times) and did all of that (plus several more things including skiing Silverton).

In fact last year I looked briefly at a CFO level gig for a smallish entity that would have put me not far from Telluride. Timing was not quite a match for our needs as a family at the moment, life wise.
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